The New Orleans Pelicans had a dismal start to the season, and Alvin Gentry was on the hot seat. Now that they’ve turned the season around, he deserves some credit.
It’s time to cool the hot seat talk.
Perhaps New Orleans Pelicans’ fans, the author included, were premature in calling for the dismissal of head coach Alvin Gentry. At 6-22, on the heels of a franchise worst 13-game losing streak and with an injury riddled team, even the starting lineup introductions omitted Gentry’s name in order to avoid the chorus of boos that followed. It was more than the losing streak that set fans off. This was not the first time the coach was put on the hot seat. Now in his fifth year with the Pelicans he has posted one season with over 35 wins, and even with legitimate excuses like injuries and front office dysfunction, fans were ready for a change.
Change came much sooner, and with a much more familiar face than expected. Twenty-six games after hitting rock bottom, the Pelicans are looking healthy, fast and ready to make a playoff push. Since losing to Brooklyn on December 17th the Pelicans have gone 17-9 with one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league. If they beat all remaining sub .500 teams on their schedule and the Grizzlies twice in March they will finish 43-39. Gentry has the New Orleans Pelicans playing well and suddenly the playoffs are within reach. His calming influence has been a big reason for the turnaround. Here’s how he did it.
Viral videos of the team have shown the public the family side of the Pelicans. The team showered Brandon Ingram after his 49 point game and called him into a film session to surprise him with a congratulatory welcome when he became an All-Star. They repeated the water gesture after Gentry’s 500th career win.
After they beat the Pacers (with Ingram and Zion Williamson out) fans saw Alvin joking with Jaxson Hayes about his foul trouble in the game. These videos match the players’ quotes about wanting to play for Gentry and since a majority of the team is still in its early 20s, stability may be exactly what they need to grow.
This chemistry has also shown up on the court. The Pelicans put together an impressive team win against Portland on Tuesday behind a collective 40 assists and 50 rebounds. The team is coming together at the right time and the youngsters like Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball are playing their best basketball of the season, which brings us to the final point.
Zion came into the league with high expectations but the revival of Jahlil Okafor last season, the development of Hayes this season, and the blossoming careers of Ball, Ingram, and Hart show that something in Gentry’s system resonates with young players. Ball is having his best statistical season and has emerged as a team leader. Ingram is an All-Star. Hayes has more highlight-reel dunks than an And-One mixtape and Zion is playing Zion basketball. The young players are developing into one of the best young cores in the NBA in Gentry’s system.
Going into this season it may have felt like one final go for Alvin Gentry, but the growth of the young players, partnered with the chemistry and on court success should cool any hot seat discussion.